Thursday, August 10, 2017

What to do when things go wrong in a pitch contest

I made a video from the Writing Cave. I talk a little bit about revisions but mostly about Pitch Wars and what to do if you don't get picked for PitchWars.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ramblings: anxiety dream edition

So, I've entered #Pitchwars. It's fun to hang out on the hashtag and watch the mentors tease people. Someone did a quick calculation and the odds of getting into #Pitchwars are less than the percentage of applicants Harvard accepted this year. So I already kind of know my odds of getting in, but that's not the point of entering.

I've been a bit of a recluse in the world of twitter and facebook (I'm having a hard time with the insanity of our news cycle these days), so I needed to get back into the swing of things. Besides, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain (and unlike previous years, I would actually have time if I am lucky enough to be picked!).

I'm trying to paint a picture of how chill I am about this particular shot in the dark. So chill. Like I'm handling this like a boss.

And then the anxiety dreams start popping up with their snakes and their slugs--

--wait, slugs?

Rena, when did slugs become part of anxiety dreams?

Yeah, I have no idea, but I had a very vivid dream of having to walk with my *pet* slug across an open field in a torrential downpour to make it to my car (and presumably the terrarium where I keep said slug).

Now, for those of you who don't know, I have a strict rule set for pets: we either have predators, or prey. We don't have hamsters and cats. We have cats. We don't keep rats, birds, gerbils, chinchillas, or anything that a cat would misconstrue as dinner. It's hard to explain death to a kid. It's much harder to explain Prized Mouse eaten by Favorite Cat. Trust me, that way lies madness.

All this to say, I don't keep slugs. Never. Not once in my whole life have I even entertained keeping slugs as pets. The closest I've ever been to slug wrangling was when I was working in the Nevada desert. We'd sometimes pick up horny toads and pet them (in our defense, it was hot and we were dehydrated).

Right, so I have this fancy slug, about an inch and a half, and it's super slimy and it's raining. And I was worried about my poor little fancy slug every step of the way (two football fields), as the sky gushed water on me.

I'm not sure where my brain was going with that one (is the slug a metaphor for my manuscript? Great, I have a fancy, slime filled manuscript and even my brain knows it), but I'm apparently not as chill about #PitchWars as I want to be. Also, slugs. Really brain? Really?

What are your anxiety dreams like? Typically, mine are snakes and nuclear detonation, but apparently, I have a subset for slugs.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rushing to Happily Ever After: IWSG

If there’s one piece of advice writers like to give other writers, it’s “Don’t compare yourself to others.”

I cannot tell you how many times I sat with my laptop, viewing the success of others and reading the unwritten subtext put there just for me: You’re a failure because you don’t have an agent/book/deal/best pound cake on the block.

To be clear, the subtext of almost every book deal and I got an agent post is “Oh, gods, please don’t see that I’m a fake and have managed to completely bamboozle this person into liking my work! I’m so happy, but TERRIFIED because no one talks about the After in Happily Ever After.”

Yes there are a lot of writers who feel like they worked hard and deserve it (I applaud you confident writers who don’t suffer from the dreaded impostor syndrome), but there are heaps tons more who feel like some person with a clipboard is going to show up and say “I’m sorry, but we both know you’re a fraud.” (this, is a direct quote from Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art commencement speech, good stuff)

Our stories tell us that the part that’s actually super hard is something those movie people cover up with one song (usually edited), and the whole process is really a great backdrop for a Rom Com. The stories most of us consume have endings (some happy, some not), and we try to fit our lives into these story templates. And it doesn’t work. We compare to other people, and we see that what they present to the internet fits the mold: worked hard, made the thing, queried and got the agent, BOOK DEAL!

It’s the perfect happily ever after rolled up in blog posts and tweets. Sometimes these success stories feel like fairytales, all wrapped up with a perfect little bow. And do you know what bearing this has on your journey?

None. Absolutely none.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll tear yourself apart comparing yourself to these fairytales. And they aren’t real. The path in writing is so very unclear. So much is about taste and preference, it’ll kill you to go about assuming the normal rules apply to publishing and agents and writing.

In the movies (which we’ve been taught to use as our gauge of how to process the world), it’s simple: You work hard, you put in the time, and you get the reward. Our stories are built this way so we understand that our culture values hard work. Unfortunately, the formula in movies doesn’t pan out in real life. In real life, you can work as hard as is humanly possible, and the reward you were working for might not come. You did nothing wrong, but you don’t win the game or get the book deal/agent/job. And we don’t have many stories like that even if it is a reality of our world.

But Rena, how can you talk about disappointment when you have Book Deals and even a book coming out in November??

Oh, sweet summer child, I know more pain than can be seen in my scars. I struggle everyday with the doubt born of how I clearly bamboozled my way into having a book deal, but I’ve never been a good enough con-artist to get an agent. My rejections folder is filled with “Not right for me,” “Send me your next project,” “I’m sure someone will snatch this up if they haven’t already.”

And I know those sound like I’m on the right track, but those were responses I got with the second book I queried. I’ve queried a number since then, and I still get those responses. And some of that is my fault. I tend to query my books too early. I have taken some of those books and revised them and that’s how I got my book deals (you know, after collecting a no from every agent who will even read SFF).

And here I am, on the brink of #Pitchwars with the very awkward path of trying to get a mentor for a book I’m probably rushing towards a Happily Ever After that probably doesn’t really exist while juggling an upcoming book release, trying to plot out another sequel and promotion. It’s awkward. I was supposed to get the agent, then get the book deal. I never did anything the standard way, but I’m worried my rush to get to Happily Ever After may have hamstringed my attempts to get an agent. I’m worried I’m no longer a fresh naïve writer. I’m wiser now, but I’m still worried I’m rushing. Just the other day, I realized there was a major revision I could put into my manuscript to make it significantly cooler, so I’m trying to nail that down before I throw my hat into the arena.

So that’s this month’s insecurity. How about you all, anyone else struggle with rushing their projects?

Saturday, July 29, 2017


For those of you scouring the interwebs, this is my #Pimpmybio for #Pitchwars.

This year I'm sending up STEAL THE SKY for all the love, so before we get started, here's a little about the book:

Sixteen-year-old Tashira has spent her life slipping through the cracks in the Shulloran’s reign over the city of Kaiou. Through prayers and songs, Shulloran priests keep sea monsters at bay, restraining the creatures from attacking the ships and eating the citizens of Kaiou. But not everyone likes the priests. They’ve forbidden singing since their teachings say voice controls water, and the untrained song could unleash the man-eating monsters at the bottom of the sea. Anyone caught singing is burned at the stake.

When Tashira witnesses a boy turn cloth to stone with his voice, she knows the priests are lying about their powers. To shut her up, the Shullorans burn down her home and send monsters to kill her. Tashira fights back, rescuing the boy who controls stone with his song, and learns the priests’ real secret. The protections keeping the monsters locked away are failing, and the monsters are escaping. To protect people from the creatures in the deeps, the Shullorans plan to combat years of sea level fall by unleashing a great flood. They hope the deeper waters will help keep the monsters submerged, and if it drowns one unruly city, then it’s all for the best. If she does nothing, her city and everyone she knows could die, but Tashira has a new weapon: her voice controls the weather. But she’s untrained, and she could spark off a hurricane or accidentally unleash the man-eating monsters. One way or another, the Shullorans know who they want to burn next.

STEAL THE SKY is a 90,000 word YA fantasy similar to what would happen if someone put Avatar the Last Airbender in a blender with the Pirates of the Caribbean and tossed in a splash of At the Mountains of Madness.

On to the Bio!

Okay, let me see, I think I’ve got an official Bio somewhere around here… A Ha!

Like most mad scientists, Rena Rocford has made an art form of living as a muggle. Today the bills, tomorrow the world. When she isn’t planning for world domination, Rena creates nerdy art and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She unleashed her first book Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon, on the world in 2015, and a companion novel, Prom, Magic, and Other Man-Made Disasters is sharpening its battle axe for release in late 2017.

That looks all official and shiny, but it’s pretty short. 

I sew costumes for fun: I particularly enjoy Dr. Horrible, but I make costumes for others as well. One year before Dragon Con, we measured the amount of thread I used in kilometers. When we added up all the spools I’d emptied, we realized I’d put nearly 5 km of thread through my sewing machine that summer.

I paint for fun. Mostly. Sometimes I paint because I absolutely cannot handle the world, and words are failing me. This year, I entered some of my art in the local fair, so, we’ll see how quickly my art aspirations get properly crushed. I jest—sort of. It’s hard to put pieces of yourself into the world and ask for judgment. We’ll see if I continue to share my pieces, or if I go recluse on these.

I have a day job, but I can’t really talk about it. Well, I can, but it goes from interesting to awkward because a lot of it is super duper confidential. Like I’d get fired and fined if I talked about the wrong part of it. No, I’m not a spy. “But Rena, that’s what you’d say if you were a spy!”

It’s a boring desk job, I swear.

But this is a long list of what I do, and I feel like that doesn’t really get to the who I am and why I write. That’ harder on so many levels. Turns out, for all my bluster and jokes, I’m a very private person. Yes, I’m the loud one telling the stories, but only to hide the fact that I’m mortally terrified of being awkward in public. I combat my fear by making people laugh. If you’re laughing with me, you’re not laughing at me. Wow, this went from funny to personal real fast. Quick, have a cat pic!

Okay, feel better after looking at the cute kittehs? Good, now onto why I write.

So, once upon a time, I decided to write a piece, I don’t know why, but it was super personal, and really—REALLY—TMI. But I put it out there into the world, and what came back to me was whispered in fear and lonely hope: “I thought I was the only one.”

It struck me that people were so afraid of the world that they’d taken their scars and tragedie and hidden them in their soul, isolating themselves for fear of being judged. So I started writing to eradicate that feeling from people. My books aren’t super personal like some of my essays, but my goal is to make the world less lonely.

“Whoa, Rena, are you saying Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon isn’t biographical??? I feel betrayed. I thought you were half dragon!”

See, funny thing, it is, but it isn’t. I feel like the writing isn’t right until you’re a little worried people will see through all the plot and character development to the you in the book. “Oh, you just wrote this book because you were jealous and wanted to foist that on your character.” Or “You wrote this book because you were struggling with your identity and wanted to watch your character squirm through figuring themselves out.”

All true.

I write to purge my demons first (and boy, I’ve got plenty). I write so people won’t feel so alone. I write so I can know the way through my own life, and maybe that can shed some light on the path for others.

So what do you get when you read one of my books? Maybe you get something deep and meaningful to you, or maybe you get a laugh, a chase, and an explosion (all my books have explosions). One way or another, it’s a ride, and if you want to have fun, I’ve got an extra seat.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Posting from the Wilds of My Life

Some of you might have noticed that I missed an Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Yeah, it snuck up on me and ran right past.

But, Rena, How is that even possible? You always make your IWSG posts. Those are like your favorite ones.

Oh, sweet summer reader. Let me tell you.

Are you ready.

This one is amazing.

I'm human.

I not only forgot, I forgot about all the things. Between juggling a ton of manuscripts (turned one back in w00t!), managing my art for upcoming exhibit, doing a pop up promotion, worrying about the health of people I love, and making it from point a to point b for all the things in my life, I forgot.

For me, this is the stuff of nightmares. I keep lists of stuff I have to do because I feel like a flake. I spent the whole weekend worried I forgot to pay a bill. And of course, forgetting to post to IWSG made me super extra nervous. I'm probably going to go to work, clean my desk and scrutinize every message, post it, and email for action items I may have missed.

One of the biggest problems with having so much going on is that it's easy to forget something. So, how to fix it? Here's another big secret:

I can't. And I'm not going to.

Sure, I'm going to go over my super regimented schedule and see if I can build in another double check. At this point, I'm going to call it a win that I have a place to keep track of my submissions, and I haven't borked one of those up in years.

How about you, dear reader? Forget anything important recently?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Life After The Contract: Which Manuscript Was That?

I’ve mentioned that some things change when you sign a contract. Today is life after contract, the endless edits keep me from writing my next book edition.

I tweeted earlier today that within 14 hours of finishing a round of edits on one book, I received another round of edits for a different book, and this is now my life. My plan had been to draft between when I'd finished one set and received the next set. To be clear, I didn't write a novel in those 14 hours...

As of this exact second, I am juggling what can only be referred to as a ton of novels. A list:

MS 1: in pre-publishing edits
MS 2: on submission with publisher
MS 3: in the query trenches
MS 4: being drafted on lunch breaks with a wireless keyboard hooked up to my phone (this is the only time I can’t work on edits as I can’t take my computer to work without being willing to submit it to time consuming inspection by IT peeps—yes, my work is sensitive, but not at all how you think)
MS 5: in development
MS 6: waiting to go into the editing grinder

Yes, I have six novels running at the same time. Six. So at any moment, I could have good or bad news from an agent, an editor, or a crit partner, and I’m trying to stick words to the page. It’s a lot to manage. (and my email is officially a ticking time bomb).

Now, I don’t say this to brag, but I think sometimes we don’t consider what consequences our actions have. Action: I’ve written a lot of books. Consequence: finding a home for those books takes time. I wrote MS 2 in 2016. I wrote MS 1 in 2009 (yeah, it’s been a long haul with that book).

At one point, I looked up from my writing work and realized I knew exactly what I needed to be writing for the next three years, and that hit me in the creative noodle. I’d never been under contract. I’d just been frolicking about in the land of dreaming up the next great big book to lure an unsuspecting agent into my snare. Then suddenly, I know what I’m trying to put together creatively for the next few years. That’s a heck of a commitment.

I don’t regret any of it. I love the work I’m doing, but it sort of shocked me to realize that I started my publishing journey in 2009, I’m two books in, and my writing docket is all tied up until the end of the decade.

So I did something big name authors do all the time: I stole time from somewhere else to develop another project. MS 4 in that list has nothing to do with any of the other novels. Literally nothing alike. It’s not even an explosion filled action piece (but it does have dragons!). I found a piece of time I had, lunches and breaks at work, and figured out how to convert them into words. So far, so good. I’m averaging about 2K a week on drafting while I’m working on the endless edits for projects under contract.

Because here’s another hard truth: once you’re published, you still have to do EVERYTHING ELSE you had to do before you were published, plus revise, edit, and polish a manuscript. Market, prep, write a sequel, and do it again. And if you’re lucky, do it again. All the while, cooking dinners, cleaning house and fulfilling the whole full time job gig too. I’m lucky in that my SO picks up the slack when I’m ready to throw poptarts at the family, but I have to admit, my ability to create new work in the crunched time was one of the hardest adjustments.

So there it is, folks, find a way to steal time and write the next book. If that advice sounds familiar, it should. Writing the next book is almost always the answer. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


So a few weeks back (many more than a few at this point), I signed with Curiosity Quills for another book!

This book is near and dear to my heart. I have quite writing to focus on my serious (non-writing) career many times, but this was the book that brought me back to writing. This was the first book I thought was good enough to query.

It became the first book I decided wasn’t ready to query.

So I rewrote it. I wrote other books (MANY other books) and they each had their own journey (some of them not finished yet!). I rewrote this book because I loved the story and the characters, and now I get to share them with the world!

I’m so excited about PROM, MAGIC, AND OTHER MAN-MADE DISASTERS! And it’s coming out November 21st!

You can add it on GoodReads!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Annoyed that it isn't easy

I have been struggling with personal issues lately, and, as always, that impacts my writing. And because I’m upset, I turn to the only real form of therapy that’s ever worked for me: Art. There’s art that I want to make—art that I need to make—but I find myself avoiding it. It’s not because I can’t make the art. It’s not that I don’t want to make the art. But it is hard.

And I find that sort of annoying.

I realize this is a personal problem, but there’s this feeling in our society that effortless is an expression of greatness. “Oh, I just wrote that novel in 6 days,” is somehow a greater novel than one that took 6 months because clearly writing a novel in 6 days is going to have way less belly aching than the novel that takes 6 months.

So I avoid the projects because they are not effortless.

Some would argue—and rightly so—that the effortless creations are only born of two places. One of these places is practice. Practicing day and night to achieve a level of greatness and skill with something is clearly a thing. After all, my first drawings of Stitch took hours and they were on cards that were 5 inches high. The one I slapped onto the concrete took exactly 3 hours and it was three feet by three feet. Obviously, practice makes the expression of art seem effortless.

The only other place where art is effortless is when it is made out of laziness. And this is where I’m worried my work is. I’ve been practicing a technique that is, at its heart, lazy. It’s easy and effortless, the only real drawback keeping it from being an absolute joy is that the art created through it is… predictable. It doesn’t show my vision or my ability, it shows my ability to follow a You Tube tutorial. It might look nice, but I worry that it’s lazy and repetitive to the point of not being worthwhile.

And, because I’ve studied the craft of story for so long, I worry that my novels are like this as well, that I don’t challenge myself and they are born out of my laziness. Cliche, repetitive. 

Does anyone else thread this needle of anxiousness between being lazy and thinking effortless art is somehow better (but worrying that because it didn’t receive it’s blood sacrifice it’s somehow not as good)?

As always, this is a blog hop, head over to the Ninja Captain, Alex and be sure to thank this month's co-hosts, JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman: A review without spoilers

First up, this will have no spoilers aside from Wonder Woman is an Amazon, though I do talk about all of it in terms of story beats from a plot structure stand point. 

To start off, I loved this movie so much that it’s hard to be objective about it. I feel like I should get something else out of the way because there are plenty of people who will tell me that “oh, you only liked it because you were a big fan of Wonder Woman before you saw it, so of course you liked it.”

I haven’t read a single Wonder Woman comic ever. Not one (unless you count Crisis on Infinite Earths, which NO ONE DOES). So I didn’t go into this movie as a great big fan of Wonder Woman, and I always thought her character was a little ridiculous (though, I definitely enjoyed the Lynda Carter series as a kid).

I came out of the movie ready to go buy all the things.

The characters were done really well in this movie. A ragtag team is brought together to take on a mission of great importance. Through the movie, I kept looking for the weakness in characterization that’s very common in thrown together movies. It wasn’t there. They stuck to their characters, no asides, no “why would they have done that?” moments.

The only weakness in the characterization is that Captain Trevor only has one line that hints at his past, specifically the past that he clearly feels the need to atone for. With the addition of this one piece, his character would have potentially stolen the show, so it was a delicate balance. I feel like the choices in the movie were made perfectly to keep the light shining on Diana and not get overburdened with any inter character subplot (i.e. romance).
I do find myself wanting to write fan fic about the aftermath though.

WWI is a great setting. The stakes are prenuclear, and weapon featured is very believable for the time (though not from a chemical stand point, alas). The backdrop for much of the action is damaged and destroyed villages in Germany, and the German forest.

A story in Three Acts:

Act I: The early part of the film has some excitement and lots of women doing super amazing badass things, but the stakes are very low which causes for a disconnect between the action we’ve been promised and women talking about things. The conflict here is very low. This section has some great humor gags to ease that feeling of could we get on with it, but it still does a great job of introducing our characters and calling the hero to action. This is a pretty typical Act I complete with the secret, the question of whether our hero can really go to war, etc. This part feels a little slow, but only because we know there’s some amazing action coming.

Act II is both super funny and awesome. There are no pacing problems here, and I love how it very matter-of-factly addresses the inequality between men and women. In Act II we get the midpoint of the movie commonly known as “the bad guys move in” beat, and it is both brilliant and spectacular. Highly enjoyable and visually stunning.

To be clear, I loved this Act as well, but I have spoken with people who did not. Act III features all the same beats we expect in any Act III, “team falls apart,” “the whiff of death,” “the dark night of souls.”
For those of you who don’t study story structure, the dark night of souls is when the main character is made to feel alone and as though the fight is, perhaps pointless. In Harry Potter, the dark night of souls is when Harry realizes that he carries a piece of Voldemort in himself and he has to die for Voldemort to die. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the dark night of souls is when Henry senior has been shot and Indiana has to go along with the bad guys to get the one thing that will save his father. In Wonder Woman, the dark night of the soul beat comes right where you expect it, leading into the final battle, and some people don’t like Wonder Woman’s dark night moment because it seemed out of character to them. I didn’t see it that way at all. It made sense from a character stand point, because she was an amazon and she gave up so much to go on this quest. It makes perfect sense that she would Doubt in that moment. Then there’s the final confrontation which maybe lasted a little too long as our main character has her epiphany.

I loved this movie. I’m super excited about getting to buy the DVD when it comes out. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thoughts on Comics Part 2: The Prayer

Can I just level with everyone here? I'm super duper amazingly excited about Wonder Woman. I see all these article filled with hate, and I just want to shake people and say "Shhhhhs! I haven't seen it yet--AND NEITHER HAVE YOU!!" Then I calmly mutter under my breath "please be good, please be good, please be good."

I'm not sure if you've noticed this, but Star Wars the Force Awakens had a lead woman. An honest to Kenobi Jedi, and it smashed the box office (and was a good movie). But when we went to buy the merchandise for Rei, it just didn't exist. Nobody thought people would buy action figures of a girl.

The main character.

This is why the market is having such a hard time tapping the female market. People are under the impression that women will not put up the numbers that men will, but it's because we've been given scraps at this feast. It's been 13 years since Elektra. No one wanted to try a female superhero because that movie did so poorly, so my new mantra is "please be good. PLEASE BE GOOD."

So yeah, I'm absolutely looking forward to Wonder Woman.

Please be good. Please be Glorious!

Also, Chris, I'm counting on you to turn in some funnies, but leave it to Captain Kirk to accidentally find the island filled with women...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thoughts on Comics, part 1

I love--LOVE--me some comics. I read every X-Men comic I could get my hands on as a child, and let me tell you, living in a rural town where I literally rode my pony to the store, the selection wasn't exactly wide. Today I'm watching the great DC TV shows (knocking it out of the park with Flash), but I have a hard time with this one common thread that crops up in comics.

It goes like this: Woman who is friends with main character, but sort of not showing any actual agency gets powers, and not just a little bit of power, but a whole crap ton of power. The power changes her into something evil, and just as she becomes super powerful, she turns on all her family and friends, killing them even.

Did you think I was talking about Caitlin Snow?

This is actually the original plot for Frozen, but Idina Menzel made Let It Go too amazing.

But this is the story line for Sarah Lance, Jean Grey, and Carol Ferris (bonus points to Sarah for coming back from the literal dark side, but that show really liked to drive its issues). All comic book ladies who get powers and suddenly go into killer mode because their powers made them do it. This is a pretty troubling trend because there are a huge number of plots where these things happen to men, but they can be helped. But women? Nope, once a killer monster, always a killer monster.

I suspect this is an issue of the fears of the demographic. Comic books are mostly enjoyed by men (search the Hawkeye Initiative, and you might figure out why comics are less read by women), so does this mean men fear women with power? I think it does. I think specifically that men fear women becoming more powerful than them, and to combat this fear, they take women with powers and turn them into these monsters. Women with power are scary. Anyhow, what's your take on the ladies getting powers only to be subsumed by them?

And while we're on the topic of the DC shows, I want Cisco to wear nerdy T shirts again...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Both too much and not enough

At this point it’s pretty cliché for a writer (or anyone on this planet) to talk about how they’re soooo busy. If you Google search Time Management, you’ll get page after page of relevant, fantastic time saving advice. It ranges from basic math—if you have 24 hours in a day, try cutting a couple hours of sleep to do more—to cutting things out of your life.

So I made a choice a while back to not visit as many blogs. I chose to stop engaging as much in social media—why is it so addictive?—and I chose to take more time to breath and relax and be a human being not constantly driving myself into the dirt.

Then starts the anxiety, have I abandoned the world of writers? Will they all hate me for not going around to all the blogs like I used to? Will they think I’m a snob for not jumping in on every blog hop or offering up discussion on the political hot topic of the day?

And what would anxiety be without the flipside?
Does my family still think I put too much time into online promotion? Am I being a bad Mom? Should I cook better dinners? Clean the house more? Spend more time doing activities with my family? Do I write or do I spend time with my family?

It’s really easy to see why there are life coaches dedicated to time management. I know this is a pretty common subject, but I really want to know how people manage full time jobs, full time families, and full time writing careers? Everyone tells me it’s a balancing act, but I sort of look at it like putting out fires. Everything is on fire, and you pick the fire to put out. Once that one is done, it’s on to the next, but by the time you’ve put out the second or third fire, the first pile is back on fire again.

Anyhow, that’s what I’m insecure about this month, am I doing a good enough job putting out the fires (did I mention, I’m also on fire in this analogy?). So how do you manage it? I've started a thing where I post pictures on my social media feed when I get too negative or whiny about publishing and time management. Here's a recent one I posted to twitter: 

Don’t forget to visit the Ninja Captain Alex and his team of cohosts: Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Being skilled doesn't mean you'll get an agent, but it helps

One of the most important things I’ve learned about writing since I released a book with Curiosity Quills, is that Publishing is subjective.

When I queried the book that became Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon, agents said they loved it, just not enough to represent it. As time went on I came to learn that there was a book very similar to mine that apparently flopped, and so my book was relegated to the back burners for a ton of agents because of a business happening.

At the time, what I thought was that all these agents were being nice. The invitations to sub again with a new project? Just politeness.

I had come to equate skill in writing with getting an agent. To a certain extent, that’s true. If the writing is really terrible, it’s very unlikely to be the one that lands an agent. On the other hand, even if your writing is spectacular and impeccable, if there’s something fundamentally not matched to the agent, or your story is in the unsalable category, it’s very unlikely to be something agents are after.

From the writer’s side, there’s a feeling that if my book is just good enough (great even), then I will have crossed that magic threshold of skill and be on to the realm of agent land, and it’s just not true. I really wish I had understood this earlier in my writing, and, to be honest, I still suffer a bit from this misconception. But today I’m here to remind all my writer friends that there’s something else, something more than skill when it comes to finding an agent. It's fit. It's passion. It's all the things you have about your book, the untranslatable bits that make you love it. If your agent doesn't have those feels too, it's not going to work. And I've seen enough writers part with their agents to know that process isn't always a walk in the park, but it's often a hit to the self confidence. They tell me it's worth waiting for the right one. 

What do you guys think? Do you feel like rejection is an indication of low skill and quality?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I have to remember things sometimes

Sometimes, I forget to enjoy writing.

Which is a funny statement on the surface, because writing is very much my passion. It's definitely the thing that keeps me up at night and drives me from my bed in the morning. It's sort of an impossible task, and I like that about it too.

My troubles with writing all stem from the difficulties associated with Publishing. Publishing has a unique way of making your craft a consumable product that you sell. For us writers, we spend way too much time making sure we are palatable to as many potential readers as possible, and I'm no exception. Before I tweet, I try to remember that a large chunk of my fanbase is very conservative, and I think that's wonderful. Everyone gets to be who they want to be. But knowing that definitely makes me hesitate before posting something polarizing and political--and considering how political my social media feeds have been, that should say something--I have sort of whitewashed many of my stances and beliefs on social media. I definitely don't talk about my family with the kind of candor I would if you were to meet me in person.

As well as combing through my public appearance, publishing has also sort of driven many of the stories I have tried (and sometimes failed) to tell. And that's simply no good. I have driven a story one way to be more on point, and then it suddenly wasn't. I've tried all kinds of things to make my stories fit into the buckets made available (or maybe more appropriately, known) by the market, and it just hasn't worked.

This has been a constant battle for me, and only recently have I come to understand some things about my work. When I have a project and it doesn't sell, or it doesn't get an agent, or it doesn't immediately have a huge selling, I used to think it was the writing. Now, to be clear, poor writing will often kill opportunities, so all writers should spend a lot of time absorbing craft. However, the idea of fit is starting to be a real concern.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that I qualify as an odd duck. No really. I'm a little off. I see the world differently, and that informs my writing. Some people like that, some people don't. And that's okay.

What isn't okay is when I try to write my stories to fit in. That's a no go. And I know I've talked about this before, but it's way better to fail as yourself than it is to succeed as a fake. Good luck out there, and some big news is coming soon (sorry, I'm such a tease).

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Queries are more fun than usual, IWSG

After a lengthy hiatus, I've returned to the world of querying agents. I have to admit, I did not miss all the anxiety and crazy feels I get when I'm querying. I hate that I'll attempt to tweet something, you know, to interact with an agent then fret over the interaction for hours. I hate that feeling of "Whelp, now that agent thinks I'm a crazy person, auto reject in 3... 2... 1..."

Generally, that doesn't happen, but the feel is there.

The funny thing is that I didn't worry about these things when I wasn't querying. I interacted with agents (various reasons) while not querying, and it was amazing. I didn't worry about how my emails sounded (other than sounding professional, but not written by a robot), and amazingly, finding agent email in my inbox didn't fill me with one part hope and three parts demon riddled anxiety. They were normal emails saying they could or could not do a thing.

My point is that all the insecurity I've been feeling lately is wondering if an agent will love my work. After publishing, I thought I had crossed some magical landscape and found myself in the valley of self confidence. Alas, that wasn't the case. Even as I'm getting super good news, I'm still struggling to feel confident in my work.

When I was first starting out, I didn't have much feedback for my work. Now I have reviews for published works to give myself a counterpoint to the inevitable rejection, but the last time I queried, I didn't have that, so I wanted to offer up some quick thoughts.

I have hundreds of requests for a sequel to my book. People FB me all the time and ask if it's going to be a thing, and I still get down about rejections.

In short, anytime you put yourself up in a situation where someone could reject you or your work, it's going to mess with your head. Your writing is probably good, maybe even great, you just haven't found your lobster. That doesn't make you a bad writer, that makes your work not what those agents are looking for right now.

Okay, I could talk about this for a very long time, but I want to know how people manage to handle the feels that come with querying. I art. (yes, I verbified it).

Also be sure to stop by the Ninja Captain Alex, and to thank this month's Cohosts: Christopher D. Votey,Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey!